My name is T.L. I am 22 years old from Minnesota, United States. I graduated in May from the College of St. Benedict and St. John’s University with a degree in Economics. I was fortunate enough to meet Heart’s Home through the Catholic Volunteer Network in early 2016. Natalia from Brooklyn, New York invited me for a Come and See weekend of discernment that February. I had an amazing weekend testing out the prayer life, living in community and embarking on apostolates in the Projects.
During my two weeks of discernment, I processed the potential challenges that would arise in a new country with new people and a new culture. I was fully aware of my limitations I, for one, only had a month available for my mission. But, I had a chasm in my heart to live simply and challenge myself for Christ and His people. Everyone who I had met so far at Heart’s Home had welcomed me in with open arms like a family. In Brooklyn, I was treated like a member of the community, rather than a newcomer. Even past volunteers that had finished their missions welcomed me in the same way and were willing to help me in any way during my decision making process. One volunteer drove out of her way (on her three hour journey home) to sit and have coffee with me. Another volunteer spoke with me on the phone for an hour and a half about her experience. Meanwhile, Natalia was always available and such a joyful presence despite her busy schedule. From the moment I met Heart’s Home, I have felt nothing but love and selflessness from strangers. Each person expressed the simplicity of the mission. They stressed the simplicity of the mission- to be a positive presence among those who are lonely and build friendships. This was the type of organization I wanted to be a part of.
I accepted my mission with Heart’s Home and found myself at the Garden of Mercy in Chennai, India three months later. Travelling 8,000 miles away from home seemed daunting at first, but I knew that I would be welcomed by a family. This family, composed of volunteers from many different countries have entered into community together with the mission to live simply with an immense compassion for all people.
Only three weeks into my mission, I am embracing the simplicity of my Heart’s Home community at the Garden. We live with three priests, many volunteers from different countries and Indian people who are marginalized, in need of a home. Together, we create a family. We do not accomplish anything extraordinary in our mission, we simply devote our days to prayer and the people surrounding us, within and outside our community. The Garden is a special place which welcomes every person that walks through its gates.
Every day in the Garden I experience and witness selflessness and compassion and love by my sisters and brothers in community. In this place, we cannot live for ourselves, we must live every day to serve others in our home and on our visits. This is a fundamental quality of every Heart’s Home that I will strive to carry with me. Jesus frequently mentions in the Bible the necessity of the Church and Scripture to be experienced in a community. It is in this context where our faith grows and God’s message flourishes. It is not meant to be personalized for the wants of the individuals; it is meant to be practiced with others.
We are also called, as Christians, to live in solidarity with those who are suffering. As stated in Matthew 25:40, « The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ ». In my experience with Heart’s Home, we live with the poor rather than for the poor. The people we visit and live with are our equals, our friends. Living simply, in this way, allows us to place a stronger focus on Christ and those around us. I am so thankful for Heart’s Home and the open door that each community creates all over the world. It is a special organization that creates a positive presence in the simplicity of the mission.